AFT Resolution

THE FUTURE OF OUR UNION

WHEREAS, America’s once-robust middle class has been hollowed out over many decades by automation, globalization and steep declines in union density. The Great Recession dealt another massive blow, ushering in a decade of stagnant wages, the erosion of retirement security and the defunding of essential public services. By 2016, as the American Federation of Teachers commemorated our 100th anniversary, income in the United States was more concentrated at the top than at any time since our founding in 1916. Unfortunately, the 2016 elections exacerbated this as well as enabling the mainstreaming of polarization and bigotry, at a level not seen in decades. Instead of rectifying the systemic factors that reinforce this inequality, many state and federal officials did the opposite: enacting deep tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and decimating public services; funding public education and higher education well below pre-recession levels in the majority of states; and undermining labor unions; and

WHEREAS, well-funded conservative activists have worked on parallel and intersecting tracks to increase their economic and political power. The same people—the Kochs, the DeVoses, and their corporate allies—are going after public education, the right to vote and labor unions because these are the foundations of opportunity for kids and families in this country; and the Citizens United ruling allows these moneyed interests to fund their assaults out of seemingly endless coffers. Twenty-nine states still provide less total school funding per student than in 2008, before the recession hit. With the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, the 2016 presidential election was the first in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. And now with Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, docketed by the court two weeks after Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed, this far-right cabal of billionaires hopes that the end of public sector unionism and activism is within their grasp; and

WHEREAS, their attacks are being met with a huge appetite to mobilize and fight back, including efforts by AFT affiliates to actively engage their unions’ members in order to not just survive but also to thrive in the post-Janus era; and

WHEREAS, the AFT fights for educational and economic opportunity, and for justice and democracy. Our fights—for good jobs that pay a living wage, a voice and a secure retirement; great neighborhood public schools and affordable college; healthcare as a right so nobody is one illness away from bankruptcy; and for a strong and vibrant democracy and against bigotry—are enduring; and

WHEREAS, while the values of our union endure, the strategies and structures may have to change. This is a moment to rethink the future. We know that through unions, we can do together what individuals cannot achieve on their own. But with changes in demographics, technology and globalization, we must consider how the AFT can anticipate and adapt to challenges and changes and, ultimately, seize the future:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will look at our union’s structure and strategies—top to bottom and bottom to top—with an eye toward making necessary changes for the 2020 convention. This process should enable the AFT president, in consultation with the executive council, to establish a Futures process, which must include input from rank-and-file members and from elected leaders at all levels of the union. This process will culminate with a report and action plan to be considered by the delegates to the 2020 AFT convention.

(2018)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.